For many organizations, the path to a private cloud seems almost preordained. Once they’ve invested in virtualization and consolidated servers, they believe that private clouds are the next logical step.
It is, actually, but just because you’ve gained efficiencies through virtualization doesn’t mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from having full-blown private clouds. Anything but.
Here are five common myths about private clouds that you’ll need to shake off before you’re ready to take the plunge:
1. Virtualization equals private cloud.
No, it does not. Virtualization helps transform outdated infrastructures into dynamic, cost-effective, self-healing ones. That’s a lot, but beyond that, you’ll need more.
“An enduring myth of private cloud is that automation software can transform traditional IT processes and infrastructure into a cloud. If the only challenge was in provisioning a bare virtual machine, that might work. But IT needs to provision operating systems, databases, backup software, storage, network, and much more,” said Kevin Brown, CEO of storage vendor Coraid. Automation only succeeds after addressing the core issue of IT complexity.
“Rather than having custom services, cloud providers predefine their service levels and offerings. This discipline then filters down into the hardware and software architectures,” Brown said.
As the CEO of a storage company, the example Brown gave centered on storage, of course.
“Storage is typically standardized to support a small number of very specific service levels, such as basic storage, replicated storage, and high-performance storage. This simplifies provisioning systems and works best when paired with storage that can support every tier with a single platform.”
Once the infrastructure is highly standardized, automation enables small IT teams to manage very large- scale infrastructures. Of course, this sort of standardization spills over from whatever you start with, such as storage, to other applications and services.
2. Traditional security can be tweaked to work with private clouds.
Traditional datacenter security is all about perimeters. Keep untrusted people and traffic out, and let trusted insiders in. The trouble is that with the cloud and mobility there is no “out” or “in.”
“In a traditional private data center, people build strong walls between different segments of servers (development servers, finance servers, etc.). In a private cloud it is one big flat network, so IT has to figure out how to protect servers from each other in this environment. This is a real challenge,” said Rand Wacker, VP of Product Management for cloud security provider CloudPassage.
As organizations move to large pools of virtual servers, too many have limited network controls between them. The security solution that is needed is highly automated controls on each of the servers themselves.
Of course, plenty of cloud security solutions are emerging, but this space isn’t yet mature. Should you invest in hypervisor security, federated identity management tools or applications firewalls? Do you need all of the above? Yes, and probably more.
Security tends to consolidate over time, but for now cloud security equals an array of best-in-class point products.
3. Private clouds still rely on dedicated resources.
A true private cloud can grow and shrink, based on real-time processing needs, by taking advantage of idle resources on the network. Outdated thinking simply locks you into outdated computing models.
“The true benefit of the cloud – private or public – is its scalability,” said Eyal Maor, CEO of Xoreax, a provider of software acceleration technology.
“Consider this: while your development team members are using three cores on their quad-core machines, the marketing team is often using just one CPU. Even if you don't consider the other underutilized computers across the other low-usage departments – accounting, data entry, call center – for each marketer plus developer, you have the equivalent of a completely free quad-core machine idle on the network.”
To achieve private cloud benefits, those idle processors need to be available. Of course, this means you’ll need better visibility, monitoring and management tools than you have now, but without them, your private cloud simply won’t scale like you think it will.
“If you don’t embrace new architectures, you’re simply building on top of bad choices. If you had bad storage utilization in the physical world, it’ll be worse in a virtualized or cloud environment because you didn’t fix what was wrong in the first place,” said Dan Lamorena, a director in Symantec’s storage and availability management group.
The same is true with disaster recovery, business continuity and whatever other app you intend to stick into your private cloud.
“If you’re not building in availability, if you’re not creating visibility across services, if you’re not prioritizing self-provisioning, if you’re not making it easy to chargeback, you’ll have all the same problems as before,” Lamorena added.